Headshot of Don Neufeld

With Don Neufeld

Before becoming an executive coach to engineering leaders, I spent more than twenty years as an operational engineering leader as the Founding CTO of Medium, VPE at ClassPass, VPE at Chartboost, and as a Founder & CTO of my own venture-backed startup.

My Approach

Working with me is different from working with many other coaches you may encounter, and I want to be upfront about that.

If you haven’t worked with a coach before, you might be surprised to know that most Executive Coaches don’t come with operational experience in your function. Coaching is a separate skill that is not tied to any particular function, and so often Executive Coaches will come from a different functional background than their clients. I think the coaching skillset is very valuable, and I use it constantly, but in my experience: engineering leaders at startups also need help and advice.

I leverage my experience as a CTO & VPE to help you succeed

My approach is not for every client, but for clients who are a good fit, it’s very successful. Some may call my approach advising or mentoring, but to me the distinction is less important than the results.

To me, the goal is simply this:

I’m here to help

Clients who work with me do so because sometimes they want answers, not just a coach who asks more questions in a quest to help them solve their own problem. In engineering there are many patterns that work, and many patterns that don’t. I’ve seen them and by working together we can get to solutions that work for your business much faster.

How We'll Work Together

As an executive coach, I work with each client on a highly individualized basis. 

Your situation is unique
you need the right help
at the right time

While every engagement is different, here are some of the things I find myself working on with most clients:

I am deeply experienced in startup engineering, and the unique needs that come with it. My hands-on experience includes building, scaling, and leading engineering teams from founding up to 125+ engineers distributed globally. The products my teams have built and operated have been global in scale, highly reliable, and rapidly evolving.

As an operator, I ran engineering organizations and cultures that my team members described as "the best job they ever had".

As a coach, my clients are primarily Founders, CEOs, Chief Technology Officers/CTOs, Vice President of Engineering/VPEs and other C-suite leaders at venture-funded startups as well as leaders at the Director and above at larger tech companies.

I have worked with leaders from many industries and companies of all shapes and sizes, from Series A startups to the largest public companies (FAANG) across consumer SaaS, e-commerce, hardware, fintech, insuretech, healthtech, and life sciences.

Strategy
  • Understanding and Creating Strategy
  • Assessing Technical Risk
  • Building a Technical Roadmap
Organization Design
  • Defining the Right Engineering Levels for your Stage
  • Defining and Evolving Organization Structure as the Company Grows
Hiring
  • Attracting Great Engineers to Your Team
  • How to Hire Entirely New Skill Sets
  • Defining and Running an Effective Hiring Process
  • How to Work with Recruiting
  • Running a World Class Onboarding Process
Developing Your Team
  • Professional Development of your Team
  • Developing your Coaching Skills
Financial Management
  • Headcount Planning
  • Financial Modeling & Budgeting
  • Managing Engineering-Specific Cost Structures
  • Negotiating With Vendors
Leading Cross Functionally
  • Communicating with Business Stakeholders
  • Developing Great Cross-Functional Relationships
Engineering Excellence
  • Defining what Good Looks Like
  • Managing Tech Debt
  • Optimizing the Development Process
  • The Role of QA & Testing
Performance Management
  • Setting and Managing to Expectations
  • Developing and Applying an Effective Performance Assessment Framework
  • Holding People Accountable
  • Delivering Performance Improvement Plans
  • Managing Terminations
General Management
  • Running Great Meetings
  • Conducting Effective 1:1’s and Skip Levels
  • Effective Delegation and Followup
  • Developing your Leadership Bench
Engineering Management
  • Engineering Specific Policies such as Code Review, Test Coverage, Deployment etc.
  • Engineering KPIs
  • Managing a Roadmap
Product Leadership
  • Defining the Product/Engineering Interface
  • Being and Effective Partner with Product
Managing Yourself
  • Building and Optimizing Your Support Structure
  • Managing Your Psychology
  • Leading In Hard Times
Communication
  • Being Concise
  • Asking the Right Questions
  • Crafting Great Written Communication
  • Having Hard Conversations
  • Improving your Public Speaking
  • Optimizing How you Show Up as a Leader, including “Executive Presence”
Managing Up
  • Understanding your CEO or Leader’s Priorities
  • Upward Communication Patterns
Board Management
  • Understanding your Role on the Board
  • Communicating at the Board Level
Time Management
  • Managing Your Calendar
  • Handling Interruptions
  • Making Time for What’s Important
Culture
  • Assessing Your Existing Culture
  • Interventions to Improve Culture

Clients

I've coached leaders from the following companies (and many more):

Testimonials

Here are a few things my clients have shared about their experience working with me:

What I Offer

My coaching rate is on a monthly retainer basis and typically paid for by your company.

All coaching engagements require a minimum six-month commitment and most of my clients work with me for long-term (12+ month) engagements. This minimum gives us the time and space to develop a deep understanding, enabling us to work together on the challenges you face.

I offer a free, no-obligation one-hour exploratory session to determine fit.

Two people having a conversation

Individual 1:1 Coaching

  • One-and-a-half hour getting started session.
  • A minimum of two one-hour 1:1 coaching sessions every month, typically at a regular time.
  • All coaching sessions are remote via Zoom.
  • Unlimited email support between sessions and occasional ad hoc sessions as necessary.